A Wake Inn is a deeply creepy and tense VR horror game with some clever puzzles, but ultimately the tedium and laborious (albeit immersive) controls get in the way of the fun and fright just a bit. Here’s our full A Wake Inn review!
The elevator pitch for A Wake Inn is a bit odd. But then again, if you were to describe the concept behind most VR games, it wouldn’t really click if you didn’t put the headset on and try them for yourself.
In this creepy VR thriller, you step into the lifeless shoes of a human-sized doll trapped inside the Silver Inn Hotel with no way to move beyond the use of a wheelchair. The mysterious Dr. Finnegan talks to you over the radio as a guide to help you try and escape the dark depths of the hotel. This means you’ll sit down in real life and reach down to the sides of your chair to push the virtual wheels forward in order to explore environments. Everything about A Wake Inn from a design perspective flows down from this high-level concept of making it feel as immersive as possible.
You can adjust your height with a lever on the side of the chair, just like you can do in an office chair in the real world right now, and your inventory is handled with a little cigar box in your lap. Unfortunately the items don’t exist as physics objects inside the box, there is a grid they snap to kind of like the Tetris inventories from Resident Evil, but it’s still much better than a non-VR menu. If you’re tired of floating rectangle menus in VR, then A Wake Inn should be a welcomed respite for your weary laser pointer hands.
Visually, A Wake Inn has a really evocative steampunk style that reminded me a bit of Bioshock mixed with Close to the Sun. It sets the tone and mood immediately. Stylistically it’s very consistent even to the point that the main menu interactions all feel directly tied to the world. A Wake Inn is acutely immersive and interactive in ways most VR games are not.
One major downside to this focus on ‘immersive’ design is that it’s just finnicky and inaccurate due in large part to the limitations of current VR hardware. Since you have to put your hands down by your sides sometimes my Quest 2 wasn’t able to see what they were doing so well. Naturally, an outside-in headset like an HTC Vive, Index, or Rift CV1 would avoid this issue. Also, turning is difficult to do reliably. If you spend enough time in a real wheelchair you eventually get the hang of rotating the wheels to turn the chair, but it’s not as fluid as I’d have liked in VR.
When you start running into the enemies that roam around the Silver Inn Hotel some of the cleverness of the design starts to fade away. If you need to quickly escape the joystick movement is a bit too slow for my taste and the wheel movement isn’t quite reliable enough. Panic sets in and it’s easy to get frustrated. Plus, the animation quality on the creepy adult-sized doll creatures just isn’t up to the same standards as the rest of the game’s visuals, so a lot of the terror dissipates when they get close.
Unfortunately, that focus on tension and stealth doesn’t remain at the center of the game for very long. You’ll eventually find weapons to defend yourself, but it doesn’t take long for everything to start shifting towards more of an action game. The ingredients are here for things to remain creepy, but the encounter design and flow of enemies is more like canon fodder than actually intelligent creatures stalking you through the halls.
After the opening couple of hours there’s no reason to be thoughtful about how you progress through rooms since you’re encouraged to just bash enemies to death quickly and get it over with. If the combat was more nuanced or interesting it would have been less tedious, but it’s all pretty one-note here.
A Wake Inn Review – Final Verdict
VR Bros has the pieces for something really great with A Wake Inn, but just falters in stringing things together in a way that remains compelling. The core design ideas are fantastic in terms of how you move through the world, interact with the environment, solve basic puzzles, and creep through the halls, but that thoughtful nature is discarded once a weapon is in your hand and the once terrifying mannequins are just combat dummies waiting to be mauled. A Wake Inn isn’t as terrifying as it could have been, but it’s still an interesting look at some clever VR mechanics others could learn from.